Railtrack defers start of its legal battle with Byers

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The Independent Online

Railtrack has deferred the launch of its legal action against the Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Byers which had been scheduled to begin today.

Lawyers acting for the insolvent network operator had been due to go to the High Court this morning in an effort to force the Government to release confidential documents relating to its decision last October to force Railtrack into administration.

But a Railtrack spokeswoman said last night the application for "pre-action disclosure" had been postponed while the company decided whether to accept offers for parts of its business from two government-backed consortia. "The situation is that we won't be going to the High Court while the board considers the next steps," she added.

The spokeswoman stressed, however, the threat of legal action had not been dropped altogether and could be triggered at any time. The Railtrack board is expected to decide at the end of the month whether to proceed with legal action or accept the compensation its shareholders have so far been offered by the Government.

This now stands at 250p a share compared with the 360p Railtrack has been demanding in return for abandoning its action against Mr Byers for alleged abuse of his powers and human rights legislation.

Last week the Government offered Railtrack shareholders £500m in compensation and earlier this week two bodies backed by the Government, London & Continental Railways and Network Rail, the proposed successor to Railtrack, offered a further £375m to buy out its rights to operate the high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

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